New Ford Escape is being developed for blind drivers

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A satirical depiction of a blind driver using a cane to navigate while operating a motor vehicle.

Blind drivers may soon have the technology to drive independently, thanks to AirPix and DriveGrip. (Photo: Defence; Kathy Heydon, CSIG)

Blind drivers have generally been left out of the equation when it comes to latest automotive innovations. The fact that the phrase “blind drivers” can be uttered at all in America might invoke a bad comedy act to some, but the truth is that technology is changing the playing field. The Detroit Bureau blog reports that the National Federation of the Blind is currently developing a special version of the Ford Escape that will, in fact, enable blind drivers to safely and independently use America’s roadways.

Blind drivers will be able to ‘see’ the road

In January 2011, the Rolex 24 endurance race at Daytona International Speedway will include a specially modified Ford Escape that will enable its blind driver (whose identity has thus far not been revealed) to see and compete, writes The Detroit Bureau. This will occur after the special Ford Escape’s debut at the Blind Driver Challenge earlier in the month. While it will be some time before such a vehicle becomes available to the public, the day for blind drivers will come.

AirPix gives ‘sight’ to blind drivers

Developed by technicians at Virginia Tech University, AirPix technology uses a non-visual interface that enables blind drivers to be aware of their surroundings and perform standard driving functions like steering, braking and accelerating. Going beyond blind spot camera technology, AirPix is a viable technology that is very close to making blind drivers actual drivers, rather than just passengers or pedestrians. A small tablet that resembles a small air hockey table is the AirPix interface. Air currents keep blind drivers informed as to the roadway environment. Another technology called DriveGrip uses a glove that informs blind drivers of conditions via vibrations.

Think this is science fiction? Think again

Individual elements of the technology the National Federation of the Blind will be displayed soon at the organization’s annual convention. By the time the Blind Driver Challenge gets under way in late January 2011, it is believed that more than one autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle for blind drivers may participate. It appears that the future is now for blind drivers.

Blind drivers, will you need auto loans for your future AirPix vehicle?

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Sources:

The Detroit Bureau

See the car that empowers the blind to drive:

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